CHICAGO WOLVES (26-25-3-2) AT MANITOBA MOOSE (24-32-1-0)
LEAP DAY WITH NO RAMPAGE?
For the fourth time in franchise history, the Chicago Wolves are suiting up for Leap Day. But, with no offense meant to the Manitoba Moose, something seems amiss about today’s matchup. See if you can figure out what it is:
On Feb. 29, 2004, the Wolves made their Leap Day debut by finishing in a 3-3 tie with the San Antonio Rampage at Allstate Arena. On Feb. 29, 2008, the Wolves dropped a 3-2 verdict at San Antonio. On Feb. 29, 2012, the Wolves suffered a 2-1 home loss to San Antonio.
Actually, based upon these results against the Rampage, perhaps it’s best to have found a new Leap Day foe. After all, every point is precious with just six weeks remaining in the regular season. After a busy Friday night that featured Rockford’s 5-4 win at Texas and San Antonio’s 4-2 win over Grand Rapids, the Wolves find themselves out of the top four in the Central Division for the first time in 2020.
Head coach Rocky Thompson’s squad sits in sixth place with 57 points, but has played fewer games than third-place Grand Rapids and Rockford (59 points) and the same number of games as fourth-place San Antonio (58 points).
WHEN IS A DOZEN NOT A DOZEN?
The Vegas Golden Knights — the Wolves’ NHL partner — have dealt with injuries relatively frequently this season, so they have needed the services of a lot of Wolves players. While those are great opportunities for our players, it also has had an effect on the team’s performance.
For the year, 12 players have played for the Wolves and the Golden Knights: Forwards Patrick Brown, Cody Glass, Keegan Kolesar, Brandon Pirri, Gage Quinney, Nicolas Roy and Valentin Zykov, defensemen Jake Bischoff, Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud and goaltenders Oscar Dansk and Garret Sparks.
Alas, only a half-dozen or so of these 12 players are available to compete for the Wolves this weekend. Quinney, Roy and Whitecloud reside on the Golden Knights roster — Whitecloud earned his first NHL point with an assist Friday night against Buffalo — while Glass and Kolesar are dealing with injuries. Zykov’s status is uncertain after missing the last three games due to illness.
THE BIRTHDAY BOY KNOWS THE MOOSE
Chicago Wolves goaltender Oscar Dansk, who turned 26 Friday, faced the Manitoba Moose for the first time on April 15, 2018 — the final day of the 2017-18 regular season. Since that game, Dansk has battled the Moose 12 more times — including three times earlier this month.
How has he fared? Not too shabbily. This season, he owns a 4-2-0 record with 2 shutouts, a 1.51 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. In the 13 games overall, Dansk boasts an 8-5-0 record with a 2.04 GAA and .925 save percentage.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
When the Chicago Wolves won the Central Division title last season, they became just the seventh organization in the American Hockey League’s 83-year history to capture three division titles in a row.
The Wolves joined the Toronto Marlies (2012-14), Rochester Americans (1999-2001), Philadelphia Phantoms (1997-99), Hershey Bears (1967-69), Quebec Aces (1964-66) and Springfield Indians (1960-62) on that short list.
The Wolves still have a chance to become the first AHL team to win four straight division titles, though they’ll have to erase Milwaukee’s 25-point head start in the Central Division standings.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Veteran forward Luke Johnson scored three goals — all on the power play — during the first two periods to lead the Wild to the win at Wells Fargo Arena.
- Forwards Gage Quinney and Tye McGinn scored during the second period to cut Iowa’s lead to 3-2 as Brandon Pirri and Nic Hague earned the primary assists.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 31 saves.
- Playing without eight of their top 12 scorers due to injuries, illness and recalls, the Wolves bolted to a 3-0 lead in the first period and rolled to the Illinois Lottery Cup victory at Allstate Arena.
- Forwards Brandon Pirri and Paul Cotter scored two goals, defenseman Dylan Coghlan scored a power-play goal and Nic Hague and Tye McGinn handed out two assists apiece.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 30 shots to earn his second win in a row.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: Forward Lucas Elvenes ranks third among all AHL rookies with 43 points. Elvenes earned his 43rd point on Feb. 16 when he picked up the secondary assist on Dylan Coghlan’s game-winning overtime goal. Elvenes owns 11 goals and 32 assists to lead the Wolves in scoring and share 19th place overall in the AHL. The 20-year-old Sweden native ranks second among rookies and shares eighth among all players in assists. He missed his first two games of the season on Feb. 23 and 25 after suffering an injury Feb. 21 at Milwaukee.
7: The Wolves enter this weekend ranked seventh in the league with just 2.84 goals allowed per game. If the Wolves can maintain this spot or improve it, this would mark the fourth season in a row that they finished among the eight stingiest defenses in the AHL. Last year’s squad ranked third (2.62), the 2017-18 squad stood sixth (2.74) and Craig Berube’s 2016-17 crew wound up eighth (2.63).
23: Forward Brandon Pirri has moved from 37th place to 23rd on the Wolves’ all-time leading scorers chart with his 35 points in 38 games this season. Pirri boasts 129 points (62G, 67A) in 124 appearances since joining the Wolves at the start of the 2017-18 season. He needs just six more points to take over sole possession of 20th place on the list, which means he would leap over former linemate T.J. Tynan (131 points), Pat Cannone (133 points) and Wolves original Tim Berglund (134 points).
29: Wolves forward Tye McGinn picked up 29 penalty minutes Friday night at Milwaukee — the result of two separate incidents that led to two 10-minute misconducts, one fighting major and two minors (instigating and roughing). Not only does that stand as the third-most single-game penalty minutes for any AHL player this season, it marks the most for any Wolves player in at least 10 years. The franchise’s single-game record is owned by Billy Tibbetts, who earned 47 penalty minutes on April 14, 2006, against the Milwaukee Admirals. Tibbetts picked up the final 35 in one fell swoop when he committed a slashing major, a 10-minute gross misconduct and two 10-minute game misconducts.
27.29: The Wolves rank last out of the 31 AHL teams with 27.29 shots attempted per game, which is on pace to break the single-season franchise record for fewest shots per game. Last year’s Calder Cup finalists set the mark with 27.71 shots per game. Curiously, the Wolves enjoy a better points percentage when they don’t reach their shots per game average. The squad is 16-14-1-0 (.532) when attempting 27 shots or fewer, but 10-11-2-2 (.480) when trying 28 shots or more.
373: When center Gage Quinney made his NHL debut with Vegas on Saturday night, he became the 373rd player in Wolves history to put NHL experience on his resume. When forwards Dan DeSalvo and Shawn St-Amant made their Wolves debuts Sunday vs. Rockford, they became the 647th and 648th players to don the Wolves uniform since the franchise was founded in 1994. That means 57.6 percent of all Wolves have appeared in the NHL. That percentage is even higher among goaltenders as 40 of the team’s 57 goalies (70.2 percent) can say they’ve played in the NHL.
|Sunday, March 1||at Manitoba||Bell MTS Place||2 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Thursday, March 5||vs. Tucson||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|
|Saturday, March 7||vs. Tucson||Allstate Arena||7 p.m.||Tickets|